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2002-09 Public Hearing on Water Rate Increase


Public Hearing on Water Rate Increase - September 4, 2002
Present:  Mayor Pierce, Council Members Neal Roop, Ed Palsgrove and Terry Petry, Acting Town Clerk Cindy Welker and Attorney Michelle Ostrander.  There were 50 people in attendance.
Mayor Pierce opened the Public Hearing with the introduction of the Water Task Force (WTF) members.  Mayor Pierce than stated that there was a sign up sheet for any resident that wished to speak.  Mayor Pierce stated that there were handouts given when residents entered the meeting.  Mayor Pierce turned the meeting over to Councilman Petry so that he could begin the discussion for the Public Hearing.
Councilman Petry began by stating that he had a clarification to make to the Resolution that was introduced at the last Monthly Town Council Meeting.  His clarification was concerning the multifamily dwellings.  He stated that in a multifamily dwelling, each unit would be charged a separate base rate.  He than turned the meeting over to Mr. Ned Cueman.
Ned began by going over page-by-page of the handout that the residents were given.  He asked everyone to hold their comments until he finished going over the handout.  There was also an overhead shown with the same information that the handout had. 
Mayor Pierce asked the audience if there were any questions. 
Patrick Burke:  He stated that at the last meeting there was approval to spend
$ 74,000.00 for engineering for the changes, improvements and additions to the new system.  He felt at that time that there was not enough information given as to what the additions, changes and improvements would be.  He asked the WTF if he could get a copy of the report that showed this information and how the WTF came up with the figures.  He also asked the WTF to see their recommendations and funding that the WTF has looked at. 
Ned stated that the WTF worked with the books from the Enterprise Fund.  He stated that the numbers that were presented could be looked at by anyone that wished too at a later date.  He than stated once the figures from fiscal year 2002 were looked at the WTF needed to do some projections.  They sat down with the operator of the Town’s water system, MES, and came up with the figures.  He stated that these were the numbers that the WTF worked with.  The last thing that was looked at was the debt service for the Town, both old and new.  Ned stated that this was the best time to borrow money, because of the low interest rate. 
Another question that Patrick had was did the WTF take into consideration that there were going to be an additional 13 units coming on board for the Town and additional revenue from New Windsor Heights.  Ned stated that the WTF was well aware of these two situations, but stated that they are not real yet because they have not been recorded as of yet.  He stated that the Town could not count on this revenue for fiscal year 2003. 
His last comment was that the increases that were being discussed at the Public Hearing tonight did not include any changes to the sewer rates.  Ned informed him that he was correct. 
Councilman Roop stated that Ned is a highly respective person with Carroll County Government and had been director of planning for many years.  Councilman Roop felt with Ned’s reputation, the Town had one of the best person qualified to do the planning for this project. 
Mike Wiley:  He wanted to confirm that the sewer rates were staying the same and what the revenue from the sewer rates was going towards.  Ned stated that the revenue at the present time was going into the Enterprise Fund along with the water revenues.  Ned stated that the Enterprise Fund has had trouble paying for itself. 
Jack Gullo, Sr.:  One of his concerns was the $ 58,000.00 that is being amortized for the 508 connections.  He was wondering what made up the 508 connections.  Ned stated that this was the number of water and sewer bills that were mailed out.  He than questioned as to how many units the New Windsor Middle School was considered.  He was informed it was only one unit.  He than stated that when the school was designed it was 45 different units and felt that they should be charged for the 45 units.  He than went on to question how the multifamily units would be charged, which Councilman Petry already answered at the beginning of the meeting with the correction to the Resolution.  He than went on to question how the people that lived outside of Town would be calculated.  Ned stated that this was not discussed as of yet, but could be considered.  Ned felt that since there were not a significant number of these people that it really wasn’t worth it.  Councilman Petry stated that years ago this was addressed and he wasn’t sure whether there was anything in the Town Code that addressed this, Mr. Gullo informed him that he found nothing in the Town Code so Councilman Petry stated that nothing had been done at that time to address this concern.  Jack stated that these people were hooked up over 100 years ago.
His last concern was that Lehigh was to help pay for the Dennings Well Project.  He wanted to know whether the WTF knew when and how much Lehigh would be helping with.  Ned stated that this was a situation that could not be considered because you didn’t know the timeline. 
He went on to state that with the new increase it was 236% increase and felt that the drastic increase was inappropriate at this time and should be gradual.  His last comment was that he felt there should be a Town citizen on the WTF. 
Sharon Nobles:  Her concern was with the Tibbetts Lane loan that was addressed in the handout.  She thought that the developers were paying this loan.  She thought that this loan was being paid by the U & O fees and would be paid off in the year 2003.  Ned informed her that it was scheduled to be paid off in 2006.  Councilman Petry stated that this agreement needed to be renegotiated because there were times that there was no developer money coming in, so there wasn’t any money going against the loan.  He went on to state that the Town owed the money to the County whether a developer built or not. 
Sharon than addressed Councilman Palsgrove as to his statement at the last work session concerning that he asked whether the total amount due was clearly marked on the water bills for the late paying customers.  Her question to Councilman Palsgrove was whether his bill was clearly marked.  Councilman Palsgrove’s reply to this comment was that he thought it was but that his secretary takes care of the water bill.  Her next statement was, that she takes care of his personal water bill.  He rebutted with that he did not have a personal water bill for his house, and that was Sharon’s question.  Councilman Palsgrove stated that there was a water bill for his house, but his employer paid it because he rented that house.  So Sharon stated that her comment was how could Councilman Palsgrove have a vote on the Town water rates.  She felt that Councilman Palsgrove should excuse himself from voting on the water rates.  Councilman Petry addressed her concern by stating that the citizens of the Town don’t have a problem with him renting because they elected him to the Council.  So he felt that if the residents felt comfortable putting him in office than he felt Councilman Palsgrove had a right to vote.  Sharon went on to state that Councilman Blacksten excused himself from voting when the Council voted on whether to go with the Resident Sheriff Deputy or stick with the Resident Trooper Program.  Councilman Palsgrove stated that since he did not look at his personal water bill that he doesn’t know what is going on?  Sharon went on to state that she felt that Councilman Palsgrove didn’t have an invested interest.  He rebutted by stating that he did because he is a resident of the Town.  He than stated that since the water rates would be going up his rent would go up. 
Sharon than presented to the Mayor and Council a list of residents that weren’t opposed to raising the water rates, but are opposed to the drastic increase. 
Mayor Pierce than asked if there were any more speakers or further comments.  There were not so he asked the Council and WTF if they had any additional comments.
Tom stated that when the WTF first looked at the situation, the first thing they did was determine what the priorities were.  He stated that the things that were presented to the residents tonight for the first three years were items that were either required by the State or are really in dire need for the Town.  He went on to state that the WTF went to the State of Maryland and got the best grants and loans that they had to offer.  These interest rates were less than 2%.  Tom went on to state that the residents had to keep in mind that the WTF had limited resources to draw from.  He stated that the WTF are not doing things to the Town that is not needed or wasteful, that these things are much needed. 
Jack Gullo, Sr. asked why the Town could not borrow more money since it was such a low interest rate and lower the increase in water rates.  Tom stated that the State of Maryland has a limit as to how much they would lend the Town and the Town needed to show that they were making an effort to put the Town’s end of it in it.  He went on to state that you just can’t go to the State and request so much and they give it to you.  The Town needs to first show that they will be making a rate adjustment and that the Town ends is going to be fulfilled.  Mr. Gullo did not agree with the way the WTF went about figuring their increase.  He felt that it was too drastic for the residents that were on a fixed income.  Councilman Roop began to state that a lot of Towns have, but was interrupted by Mr. Gullo stating that he did not want to hear about a lot of Towns.  Councilman Roop went on to state that a lot of Towns raise their rates every two years and the Town of New Windsor has not raised their rates in nine years.  He stated that the residents could look at past administrations, he included, for not raising the water rates earlier.  Councilman Petry stated that the Town did not need the money years ago, but the Town needs it now for the water system.
Ken Keller:  He wanted to know what it would take to get Lehigh to help pay for some of the improvements to the water system.  Ned stated that Lehigh is a private corporation and makes their own decision in their own time.  The WTF had hoped some years ago to come together over something that would have been beneficial to both Lehigh and the Town, but that did not happen.  He went on to state that the WTF is in hopes that it will happen.  Ken stated that he thought there was an agreement between the Town and Lehigh.  He was told that there was no agreement and it was up to Lehigh as to when the land transfer would take place.  His last question was the calculation on the multifamily connections.  He wanted to clarify that there would be separate rates for each unit and whether this applied to the Brethren Service Center.  Ned stated that it applies to basically what is an apartment. 
Mayor Pierce asked for any last comments or concerns to the increase water rates.  As there were none, the Public Hearing was closed at 8:02 p.m.

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